Keith Thiele, who died this month aged 94, was a decorated New Zealand war hero.
One of New Zealand's most decorated World War 2 flying heroes has died, aged 94.
Christchurch-born Keith Thiele awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and three Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFC), one of only three New Zealand aircrew to be so honoured, and was the only Kiwi flier to win a DFC on both bombers and fighters.
His funeral was held in Sydney this week.
During missions in 1942 and 1943, Thiele twice brought damaged Lancasters home on two engines after the aircraft were badly damaged by enemy fire.
Fellow flier Sergeant R J Campbell referred to Thiele as "the best little bomber pilot in the whole RAF and every one of us looks up to him as a little tin god".
He became legendary in his squadron for weaving his cumbersome bomber through German searchlight and flak barrages as shells burst all around. All the time, Thiele would be singing some New Zealand song over and over, Campbell said in a US magazine interview.
"I would not like to go out in any kite now that did not have Keith at the controls, " Campbell said.
Thiele flew 56 bomber missions before converting to fighter planes.
He wrote himself once that "Hitler came to [his] rescue" in 1939 as he had achieved nothing at school and was heading for an aimless existence.
In early 1945, he was given command of 3 Squadron, flying Tempests from Holland.
He destroyed two enemy fighters before he was shot down by flak while attacking trains in Germany, narrowly escaping lynching after landing by parachute. Slightly wounded, he was taken prisoner but was only held captive for a few weeks before escaping from a hospital and getting back to Allied lines to rejoin his squadron.
Post-war, Thiele flew as a senior captain for Qantas and later established the marina at Spit Junction. He sailed his own yacht to New Zealand several times.